pied_piperPainting by Helen Tyrell



Giving LOAF! Nicky Chambers: Tribute and Memories

I first met Nicky Chambers when she interviewed me for a job at Best Foot Forward, the small (award-winning) sustainability company she ran with her friend and colleague at the time, Craig Simmons. I had been ‘out of the workplace’ for quite some time at this point, parenting, being an artist and, variously, teaching French and Art. I was selling my artwork through a gallery and undertaking commissions but I had come to the end of the road: what I spent on materials and framing etc was barely covered by what I made in sales. My daughter was nearly a teenager and my son not far behind. It was a nasty shock to me, but I had to admit defeat and seek ‘proper’ work. I attended various interviews, but the one with Nicky made an impression on me, so much so that when I got home I sketched an image of her, from memory. Here was someone who seemed not only interested in me, but intent on doing things according to her own moral map. I received two job offers that week, but it was the one at Best Foot Forward which I chose.

What was it about Nicky that inspired so much affection and admiration in those that knew her? For one thing, she had a way of making you feel that she could learn something from you, whoever you were. Then there was the unconstrained thinking, big ideas which she managed to bring, most impressively, to earth and realise. Here was someone doing something practical about the issues which had nagged at me all my life: the degradation of our planet’s precious environment and the terrifying threat of global warming - and had been for over a decade already by the time I met her. No wonder she was so magnetic.

She could talk with kings and commoners (indeed I think she met various members of royalty on her long journey in business excellence) and I don’t think I ever once saw her head turned by rank or power. She had an uncanny knack of putting her finger right on whatever knotty issue was at hand, articulating it, going straight to the heart of the matter, which usually had to do with people. One of my colleagues once said that Nicky would have been a great military leader, that you would follow her into battle, and I completely agree. Many of us did, metaphorically speaking. Nicky embodied all that I wanted to be and more. I just knew she believed in me (thank you Nicky) and she taught me an incredible amount. Never once did she shirk the responsibility of self-examination either: she knew she was not perfect, but it never rocked her confidence, it was a just part of the interesting journey that is life.

In later years I understand that she did much work locally, bottom-up, with the environment around her home and it seems she brough every inch of her amazing energy to that too. Like I said, no hierarchy of important jobs, just important jobs. Her loss is like a bright burning torch being extinguished, except that her legacy runs so strong in many of us, I almost can’t believe a light that burnt so strongly can ever be extinguished. And reading the tribute to her written by the Nature Recovery Network, a group which it doesn’t surprise me at all that Nicky was a central part of, I’ve learnt something new again from Nicky, a philosophy which I intend to take to heart fully. From now on I intend to give LOAF (less of a f***) and live my life more fully, in memory Nicky, whose approach to life inspired so many of us who were lucky enough to have known her.

Helen Tyrrell, 26th February 2024